A CLOSER LOOK: What to do if your dog suffers a heatstroke

A Closer Look

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) — We’re in the thick of summer, and your dogs are vulnerable to the dangers of intense heat.

Dogs can easily fall victim to hyperthermia, local veterinarians say.

“[Heat exposure] doesn’t have to be as long as you would think,” said Dr. Beth Stropes, a veterinarian with Crossover Veterinary Clinic in Springdale. “[Hyperthermia can occur] if it’s hot enough outside and the animal doesn’t have shade, or if they’re exercising, or if they’re a breed that doesn’t breathe well. I’ve seen dogs that go for a very short walk and have a heatstroke.”

A dog suffers hyperthermia — heatstroke — when her temperature becomes elevated by environmental conditions, according to Veterinary Partner, a website trusted by veterinarians and recommended by Stropes.

A heatstroke can cause several types of severe damage to a dog, including severe damage to their blood cells, stomach lining and brain, according to Stropes.

Veterinary Partner provides a list of what you should and shouldn’t do when your dog starts suffering a heatstroke.

What to Do

  • Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
  • Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on her.
  • If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
  • Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling. Transport to the closest veterinary facility immediately.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not overcool the pet.
  • Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105°F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet’s body temperature to 102.5-103°F while transporting her to the closest veterinary facility.
  • Do not attempt to force water into your pet’s mouth, but you may have fresh cool water ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.

Stropes said to immediately take your dog to a veterinarian if the dog is having a heatstroke. They said if the dog’s usual veterinary clinic is not open, then take the dog to the nearest emergency animal clinic.

There are physical warning signs that a dog is suffering a heatstroke.

Physical indications that a dog is suffering from a heatstroke include panting in a distressed fashion, discoloration, drooling, appearing distressed, depression, laying on their side and breathing hard and generally looking weak, Stropes said.

Stropes said she has treated numerous dogs who were suffering from a heatstroke.

“We’ve seen them come in with body temperatures over 105 degrees. They come in with temperatures that don’t even register on our thermometers,” Stropes said.

A dog’s normal body temperature runs as high as 102.5, but that temperature may safely go up a degree when she becomes excited, said Dr. Steven Bird, a veterinarian at Hancock Veterinary Services in Springdale.

A dog’s temperature can be checked rectally with a thermometer.

Dogs generally suffer heatstroke during hot summer weather when they are left inside a vehicle without adequate ventilation. But it can also occur in any of the following conditions, according to Veterinary Partner:

  1. When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
  2. When exercised in hot/humid weather.
  3. When left in a car on a relatively cool (70°F) day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one (!) hour regardless of outside temperature.

You can protect your dog from suffering a heatstroke by keeping it in the shade, not leaving it in a hot car and by giving it plenty of fresh water, Bird said.

“If it’s a hot day, the best thing for your dog is to be inside with an air conditioner,” Bird said.

Dogs that are older and overweight are more vulnerable to heatstroke. Dog breeds that have smushed faces, such as bulldogs and pugs, are also more vulnerable to heatstroke, Stropes said.

“[Dogs] don’t sweat like we do. They cool off by breathing, so all the short-nosed breeds will be at the most risk,” she said.

Stropes stressed the importance of taking a dog suffering from a heatstroke to a veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic if a veterinarian is not available.

“If they’re in true distress, they need to be treated,” Stropes said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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